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Tag Archives: The parable of the Prodigal Son

Concentrate on the Right Direction Rather than Destinations in 2023

The younger brother of Jesus learned an important life lesson from his big bro, “tomorrow isn’t guaranteed,” James 4:13-15. While there is no record of praising their eldest son in the Bible, Mary and Joseph likely told James that Jesus would go places in life as a carpenter and man of God. James was likely one of the 500 people who spoke with Jesus following his resurrection and before his ascension into heaven, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. One snippet from their discussion might have been centered on proceeding in the right direction in life rather than a specific destination.

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths, Proverbs 3:5-6.

While writing a letter to warn his children about the dangers of life, King Solomon turns his attention toward trusting God. Similar to James’ warning about making plans for the future, Solomon emphasizes the need to place your heart, soul and mind into God’s hands. Though you may think that you should go to a particular place to work in a certain field in a specific city, the Lord knows what’s best for you. Unfortunately, when I moved to Aiken last summer, I was so sure of my future that I forget to lean on the Lord for my future position in South Carolina.

For this [forgiveness] let everyone who is godly pray—pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely when the great waters [of trial] overflow, they shall not reach [the spirit in] him. You are a hiding place for me; You, Lord, preserve me from trouble, You surround me with songs and shouts of deliverance. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! I [the Lord] will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you, Psalm 32:6-8.

If I would have concentrated on going in the right direction spiritually, day by day, I’d be in a better place in my life as 2023 begins. Like the parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-24. I had to learn the hard way, coming to my senses following a grueling day at work. It would be nice to know where you’ll be in a couple of weeks or months, but right now I’m clearly living outside of God’s will for my life. Therefore, it’s time to take the walk of shame back to my heavenly father to confess, “you were right, and I was wrong.” After confession comes clarity, one step at a time as God makes everything beautiful in His time.

by Jay Mankus

What Grieves the Heart of God?

As the son of a former member of the military, my father pushed me as a child. When my dad felt like I wasn’t giving my best effort, he went into his Army Drill Sergeant mode. As an extremely emotional and unconfident individual, this wasn’t an effective strategy to inspire me to reach my full potential in life. Despite my father’s imperfections as a parent, he instilled within me a work ethic that few people my age still possess. Arriving early and giving it my all remains part of my DNA today.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved at heart. So the Lord said, I will destroy, blot out, and wipe away mankind, whom I have created from the face of the ground—not only man, [but] the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air—for it grieves Me and makes Me regretful that I have made them, Genesis 6:5-7.

Unfortunately, there were a few times in college where I greatly grieved my mother by not calling her in the middle of the night to inform her, I was staying over a friend’s house before I went to work. On one occasion she thought I had died like a similar student my age. The parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 provides a glimpse of what God the Father does when we decide to live on our own for a while. Luke compares this to a human father sitting on his front porch, patiently waiting for our return.

These six things the Lord hates, indeed, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look [the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others], a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that manufactures wicked thoughts and plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who breathes out lies [even under oath], and he who sows discord among his brethren. 20 My son, keep your father’s [God-given] commandment and forsake not the law of [God] your mother [taught you], Proverbs 6:16-20.

While the Lord is a patient, King Solomon does write about what God detests. These behaviors listed in the passage above are prevalent on the nightly news. Whenever a saint begins to stumble by turning their attention toward the sinful nature God’s heart grieves. According to Jesus, this is expected by non-Christians, but God calls believers to higher standards in Matthew 5:43-48. Rather than follow in the footsteps of Demas who abandoned God in the first century, mend your relationship with God before you become too far gone, James 5:16.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 343: Welcome Home

There are two passages in the New Testament that speak about welcoming home individuals. The first comes in the form of the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. After quickly squandering away his inheritance, a younger son ends up bankrupt, working on a farm, yearning for the slop that he feeds to pigs. When this young man came to his senses, he returned home, replaying in his mind what he was going to say to his father. Upon his return, his father ran and greeted him with the words,” welcome home.”

Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude]. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me, Revelation 3:19-20.

The second account takes place in John 14 as Jesus talks about going on ahead of his disciples to prepare a place for them in heaven. One of Jesus’ disciples who was present for this conversation has a vision in the passage above. Jesus doesn’t force individuals into heaven but offers human beings free will to decide for themselves. This door to heaven only has a handle on our side. When God knocks, only we can let Him in. When we open this door God replies with a similar message, “welcome home.”

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 261: Next to Me

 Sometimes when you hear a new song for the first time, it may take time to decide if you like it or not. When I first heard today’s featured song by Jordan Feliz, I was curious by his combination of folk rock and soul style of Christian pop. Jordan incorporates the parable of the Prodigal Son into the lyrics of Next to Me as a call to come back home to Jesus.

If you will listen diligently to the voice of the Lord your God, being watchful to do all His commandments which I command you this day, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you if you heed the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field, Deuteronomy 28:1-3.

As I listened to a portion of the lyrics, I was reminded by the words of Moses. Prior to passing the baton to Joshua as Israel’s spiritual leader, Moses writes about blessings that come from God when believers are obedient. This is what Jordan sings about in the line “feeling deep down in his soul.” May Jordan’s message in Next to Me encourage you to draw close to the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 241: The God Who Stays

As a child, it’s easy to feel alone and abandoned. The Father of Lies, John 8:44, has a way of convincing human beings that God is to blame. Yet, Matthew West in his song The God Who Stays seeks to correct and stop any ungodly beliefs from spreading. It’s not God who leaves us. Rather, individuals exercise freewill and, in the process, end up taking a break from God like the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants. 20 So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [[j]fervently], Luke 15:18-20.

The apostle Paul writes an entire chapter about real love in 1 Corinthians 13. The purpose of this chapter is to correct any false assumptions about God’s unconditional love. Unfortunately, this world is filled with fallen and flawed human beings that don’t emulate fruits of God’s Spirit. In view of this fact, may the lyrics of the God Who Stays serve as an encouraging message of hope to anyone who wanders off in life.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 115: Rescue

Since my two boys have attended Liberty University, there are exposed to a variety of Christian artists who are featured at weekly convocations and concerts. Today’s featured song was introduced to me by my son Daniel. Although Lauren Daigle’s mellow worship music isn’t his typical style, Rescue is one of the many songs Daniel downloaded onto his phone that he has shared with me.

So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [[j]fervently]. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son [I no longer deserve to be recognized as a son of yours]! 22 But the father said to his bond servants, Bring quickly the best robe (the festive robe of honor) and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand and sandals for his feet. 23 And bring out [k]that [wheat-]fattened calf and kill it; and let us [l]revel and feast and be happy and make merry, 24 Because this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found! And they began to [m]revel and feast and make merry, Luke 15:20-24.

From a spiritual point of view, the portion of the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the passage above is the type of rescue Daigle sings about. While human nature influences many people to try to save themselves, the apostle Paul gives readers of the Bible the bad news in Romans 3:9-12. May the words of Daigle’s Rescue uplift your spirit and remind you of the God of second chances.

by Jay Mankus

When You’re Painting Light Illuminates Imperfections

I spent last week trying to renovate a new house in South Carolina. The longer I participate in this process, the more helpless I feel as building and construction is not one of my gifts. Rather than get in the way, I turned to painting and sanding. After putting on a coat of primer, I thought we were ready to paint the ceiling. However, when I inspected each section a little close with light, I was disappointed by all the areas that I missed. When you’re painting, light illuminates imperfections.

For God Who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts so as [to beam forth] the Light for the illumination of the knowledge of the majesty and glory of God [as it is manifest in the Person and is revealed] in the face of Jesus Christ (the Messiah). However, we possess this precious treasure [the divine Light of the Gospel] in [frail, human] vessels of earth, that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be from God and not from ourselves, 2 Corinthians 4:6-7.

Light appears 272 times in the King James Bible. Light is used as spiritual imagery to illuminate everything that is good and true. Meanwhile, darkness is the opposite of God. Human nature tends to lower one’s standards, using justification and realization to participate in deeds of darkness. Until I started to read and study the Bible, I didn’t know right from wrong accept from what my parents taught me. Yet, like the apostle Paul’s confession in 1 Timothy 1:15, the closer you draw near to God, the more your sins are brought to the surface.

For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light [lead the lives of those native-born to the Light]. For the fruit (the effect, the product) of the Light or [c]the Spirit [consists] in every form of kindly goodness, uprightness of heart, and trueness of life, Ephesians 5:8-9.

In the passages above, the apostle Paul calls Christians to leave the darkness of their past by entering the light of the Lord. Yet, change requires a catalyst, something to trigger a dead spirit so it can be brought back to life. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, it was a Jewish man longing to eat the sloop given to pigs that altered his perspective. Any time human beings hit rock bottom, common sense is illuminated. Despite how frustrating it is to recognize any imperfection in your life, the light of God’s Word helps believers see what issues they need to addressed before maturity can be achieved, James 1:2-4.

by Jay Mankus

Readily Pardon and Forgive

Pardon is the act of forgiveness where a judge or individual decides to cancel an offense. Despite being guilty and wrong, the written record of this offense is purged and removed. Perhaps, the apostle Paul was reflecting upon part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount when writing the words below. Whatever the inspiration behind this message, Paul encouraged members of the Church at Colosse to readily pardon and forgive.

Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive], Colossians 3:13.

While the apostle Paul practiced tough love when the occasion or timing was right, what makes Christian’s different from everyone else is a spirit of charity, 1 Corinthians 13:1-7. Paul shares a similar message to the Church at Ephesus, to emulate the love of Jesus, Ephesians 5:1-2. Whenever you display grace upon individuals, whether they deserve it or not, love in action makes the unspiritual hungry for what you have inside your heart.

For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses, Matthew 6:14-15.

In the passage above, Jesus introduces the conditional status of forgiveness. Similar to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, genuine love waits for and is ready when opportunities arise to console, encourage and uplift. Based upon the clause above, how you forgive others will be the basis for how God forgives you. Anyone who is willing to readily pardon and forgive others on earth will receive the same outpouring of grace by God in the afterlife.

by Jay Mankus

When Misery Leads to Desperation

After graduating from college, I spent my first six months in the real world serving as a social worker. I made $500 for the entire summer before getting a part time job as a youth director. I made $100 a month, lived in my sister’s basement and slept on a couch. After being accepted to attend a Youth Ministry Trade School, I needed to raise $500. I volunteered at my home church, painting the entire basement, hoping to earn enough money. When my car broke down just before Christmas, I didn’t know how I was going to get to Minnesota, let alone pay for it. This moment of misery conceived a spirit of desperation to do whatever it took.

And He said, There was a certain man who had two sons; 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the part of the property that falls [to me]. And he divided the estate between them. 13 And not many days after that, the younger son gathered up all that he had and journeyed into a distant country, and there he wasted his fortune in reckless and loose [from restraint] living. 14 And when he had spent all he had, a mighty famine came upon that country, and he began to fall behind and be in want, Luke 15:11-14.

Jesus tells a story about a boy who was of a similar age. Based upon the passage above, this young man saw his surroundings as dollar bills. Instead of waiting his turn to receive his father’s inheritance, this selfish boy pressed the issue, convincing his father to divvy up a nice lump sum of money. The Parable of the Prodigal Son reminds me of Jason Stevens’ character in the film the Ultimate Gift. Spoiled by a billionaire uncle, Jason spent his families wealth in a lavish and reckless manner. This privileged lifestyle continued until Jason was left behind a series of gifts following his uncle’s death. After being cut off from his mother’s inheritance, poverty led to misery, being homeless led to desperation, sowing a seed to change.

So he went and forced (glued) himself upon one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed hogs. 16 And he would gladly have fed on and filled his belly with the carob pods that the hogs were eating, but [they could not satisfy his hunger and] nobody gave him anything [better]. 17 Then when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father have enough food, and [even food] to spare, but I am perishing (dying) here of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants, Luke 15:15-19.

You don’t have to be rich or poor to experience misery. If your career, job or life isn’t fulfilling, emptiness will conceive a desire to alter your course, direction or path. The longer you continue toward this dead end, souls will hunger for change. As soon as the prodigal son began to crave the sloop fed to pigs, he finally came to his senses. The moment misery hovers over you, human beings get restless, eager to get out of their predicament. As conditions worsen, desperation drives the helpless to act. May this blog remind you that it’s never too change to change, no matter how grim your current situation may be.

by Jay Mankus

Lowering the Bar or Extending God’s Grace?

As a former Catholic, you can tell a lot about the direction of a church based it’s leadership.  Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, is now calling for priests to forgive any woman who has terminated a pregnancy.  During a recent interview on cable news, a member of a local archdiocese summarized this theological change.  In the past, female Catholics who had an abortion were excommunicated from the church, viewing this act of killing an innocent life.  Today, Pope Francis wants to focus on love and forgiveness by extending grace to those who have fallen short of God’s glory.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

When I heard excerpts of this interview, I wasn’t sure what to think.  However, now that I have had time to digest this new stance, there are two possible explanations.  First, the church is lowering the bar by altering the expectations of what it means to be a modern day Christian.  Just as public education has changed the standards for a passing grade, clergy is now more accepting.  As godliness diminishes within society it’s hard to find willing servants of Jesus.  Thus, many churches are being forced to overlook past transgressions to fill half empty buildings and worship services.

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace, Romans 11:6.

The other logical explanation is a shift from an Old Testament view of God’s wrath and judgment toward a New Testament approach based upon the love of Jesus.  This theological position points to the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.  God is already working in the lives of the righteous according to Matthew 9:9-13.  It’s the rebellious, lost and those wandering in the dark who need help.  Instead of emphasizing church growth, pastors have become more evangelistic to reach out to a generation of people who have not grown up in the church.  Depending upon your theological beliefs, you may lean toward one of these two positions.  Nonetheless, the church is suppose to be the hands and feet of Christ, like a beacon of light piercing into the darkness of a spiritually dead and dying world.

by Jay Mankus

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